Celebrity contesting wills cases

Published 06 Mar 2014

If you’re thinking about contesting a will someone has made, you’re not alone.

It’s quite common for people who feel they’ve been treated unfairly by a loved one to get in touch with contesting wills lawyers. They can help you determine whether or not you’ve got a case, and hopefully assist you in getting a larger portion of the deceased’s estate.

One group that’s often involved in lengthy inheritance disputes is celebrities. This is generally because their assets are worth a great deal, or because they have passed away suddenly without making their wishes known.

The following are just a few examples of contesting wills cases involving the rich and famous.

James Brown

When this beloved American musician died in 2006 of congestive heart failure, he left behind an estate worth approximately $100 million. He also left behind a will – this was signed and witnessed in 2000, and not reviewed in the years preceding his death.

In that time, the “Godfather of Soul” got married to Tomi Rae Hynie – his third wife and one of the back-up singers in his band – and had a child with her. Because his will had not been updated since these significant events took place, when James Brown died, Hynie and James II were not left anything.

Hynie brought a contesting wills case against her late husband’s estate. As Brown’s spouse at the time of his death, she was eligible to do so.

Leona Helmsley

This eccentric businesswoman passed away in 2007 with a net worth of $8 billion and a well-deserved nickname: The Queen of Mean. According to Trial and Heirs, Leona Helmsley purposely left her two grandchildren out of her will and instead bequeathed a whopping $12 million to her pet dog, Trouble.

While, even in New South Wales, it’s not out of the ordinary to make provisions for beloved pets in a will, this was regarded as a little extreme by Helmsley’s family. So, her grandchildren contacted some contesting wills lawyers and managed to increase their portion of Helmsley’s estate from $0 to $6 million. Trouble’s inheritance was cut to $2 million.

Howard Hughes

This billionaire playboy and focus of the biographical film “The Aviator” starring Leonardo DiCaprio died in 1976 with an estate worth around $2.5 billion. He didn’t, however, make a will detailing his wishes – so his assets were distributed among his many, many cousins.

However, a gas station owner who believes Howard Hughes meant to provide for him after his death has brought a case against Hughes’ estate.

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